Six Happy Teaching Moments | September 2018

As we move into another year of teaching, I’m grateful to be working with a great group of kids, adults and families. Here were some fun moments from September:

  1. Neighborhood kids biking to piano lessons – I love to see these kids ride up on their bikes
  2. A sweet student drew a picture of me while she was waiting for her brother to take his lesson – a pretty good likeness!
  3. After playing through a new piece for a student, she remarked “Me likey” 🙂
  4. Contacting the composer Jackson Berkey to use his music in a DVD recording of an upcoming student performance for our local association and getting a very kind and thoughtful answer in return, plus lots of new music to peruse! 
  5. Excitement of new practice challenges
  6. A new student practicing three hours in a day!
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New Repertoire Recommendation – Jackson Berkey

Our local teachers association runs a Multiple Piano Festival each year, which features duet and ensemble music played by up to 36 students at a time on 12 grand pianos.

This year our older group is performing “Hosanna Down” by composer Jackson Berkey. I reached out to Mr. Berkey to request permission to use our performance of his piece in a DVD. He was very gracious and happy to allow us to do so.

And…he sent me a big stack of duet and solo piano music and recordings to peruse. This is like Christmas for someone like me! I have enjoyed the past week so much listening to Mr. Berkey’s music.

I highly recommend getting acquainted with his works if you are not already. His pieces are beautiful and varied – at times haunting, rhythmic, lyrical, contemplative, dancing, imaginative…He has a huge output of works, not only for piano – his piano works are mainly for advanced musicians.

What a fun surprise to receive this collection of music – it’s been an even better surprise to discover a new composer whose works I love!

What I’m Playing | Billy Joel classical music

After an adult student recently mentioned listening to Billy Joel’s classical music, I knew I had to do some investigating. Like most people, I didn’t know that he composed classical piano music. So I ordered the score on Amazon and began playing.

And fell in love.

The pieces in Fantasies & Delusions, Op. 1-10 are wonderful. The harmonies vary from traditional to modern to very “Billy Joel-style” harmonies. I especially enjoyed the waltzes and the invention, but by far my favorite was the absolutely gorgeous and fun “Air”.I would highly recommend giving this collection a try, either for your advanced students or for yourself.

Best Things | Student Picture Wall

One of the best things in my studio is this picture wall. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Students love getting their picture put on the wall. I think it gives them a sense of being part of a community. Some of the students have their pictures taken with a photo prop or with my dog Sadie or with a duet partner.
  2. Students who are planning to play a duet with another student from the studio can look at the wall to see who they will be playing with. It takes away a little of the unknown when the students are then brought together for their first rehearsal. This is also true of group piano projects or classes.
  3. Students recognize friends/acquaintances they know from daily life. “Hey, I have gymnastics with______!”
  4. It’s a great way to show off projects, recitals and festivals we’ve participated in over the past year.

It’s a great reminder to me of all the people that grace my teaching life each and every week.

Happy Teaching Moments | August 2018

As summer winds down, I’m grateful for the beautiful moments that have graced this month. Here are a few of those moments:

  1. Adult student’s new grand piano. We had such a sweet conversation about having a good instrument to play on and what a difference it makes for motivating practice and enjoying the process.
  2. The Magical Forest group rehearsal and performance. Read my post about it here. 
  3. I had a few students (sibling group) who practiced every day over the summer at their summer vacation home. They went to the nearby college’s music sale and stocked up on music from which they played all summer.
  4. Summer practice chart. The students completely blew my goals for them out of the water and filled to overflowing the gumball machine with time practiced. Read my post about it here. I also love how certain students wanted to draw pictures on the board. 🙂
  5. New students and the new energy they bring to the studio
  6. “Piano” acrostic from studentI hope you have had a happy and productive August!

CSMTA Reading Program

Our state teachers’ association, the Colorado State Music Teachers’ Association, has a Professional Reading Program for its members. Three or more books are recommended each summer, teachers read throughout the year, then we discuss at the state convention in late May.

This year the chosen books will explore the development of expressive playing in music-making. The three books this year are:

  1. Sound in Motion: A Performer’s Guide to Greater Musical Expression by David McGill
  2. The Musician’s Way by Gerard Klickstein
  3. Bringing Music to Life by Barry Green

Additional reading (optional books) are:

  1. Interpreting Music by Lawrence Kramer
  2. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? by Alan Alda
  3. Toward Center: The Art of Being for Musicians, Actors, Dancers, and Teachers by James Jordan

I own The Musician’s Way but have never read it. I’m looking forward to some great reading this year!

Group Piano Project | The Magical Forest

We had a great time this summer working on The Magical Forest, a narrative suite for piano. The Magical Forest is a delightful set of pieces woven together by a sweet story about a forest that comes alive when the woodland creatures meet for dancing and a party.

I chose seven students to participate  – they learned their pieces individually throughout the summer, then came to the studio for a group rehearsal the second week of August. During the rehearsal we practiced our pieces, practiced the narration (the students took turns narrating) and drew artwork to go along with the pieces each student was performing. We had so much fun! I loved seeing these students interacting with each other, supporting each other’s performances and just plain having fun together.

Here are a few of the pictures the students drew:

Two days after the rehearsal we performed the suite for our parents. I rented our neighborhood clubhouse to host the event. The students played and narrated beautifully, and the parents really enjoyed this unique production with story and piano.

After the performance we had a picnic dinner together and the students and siblings jumped in the neighborhood pool. As the kids were swimming, the parents all sat around and talked. There was much laughter. It was so fun to see this community coming together for music and celebration. The parents remarked that it was a great way to end summer.

I highly recommend The Magical Forest – the story and music is beautiful, and it’s a great way to bring your students together for a special project any time of year!